Sunday, July 3, 2011

Living, losing

There is another intern, A, in my department at work.  We sit on opposite sides of the office and don't see each other much during the day, but we've been meeting up for lunch or walking to Starbucks together most afternoons.

I'm generally a wimp about making new friends and I hate eating in front of other people - especially new people - but A is actually awesome and we have really hit it off.  She has this dry, smart, sarcastic sense of humor, but she is also really thoughtful and intelligent.

Aside from being entertaining, though, A is super confident.  She is a lesbian and sometimes mentions her girlfriend, which I think makes the other interns a little uncomfortable, but A is totally cool about it.  She is who she is, no apologies, take it or leave it.

BUT...she wants to lose weight.

She was munching on some carrot sticks at lunch and another intern made some comment like, "Oh, you're so healthy!" and A just sort of laughed and said, "Well, I'm trying to lose twenty pounds!"

And I choked.

I have absolutely no idea how to respond in situations like that.  Do I encourage her?  "Good for you!" To me, that seems like I'm saying: Yes, you sure need to lose those twenty pounds!

Do I protest? "Omg no way you're soooo skinny! You don't need to lose any weight! Hugz!" Fake.

(For the record, A is not overweight.  Not thin, but definitely not fat.  Maybe a tad over "average," but she looks just fine to me.)

So to hear her say that she wanted to lose weight depressed me.  I see her as someone full of life and confidence; someone who clearly has a lot to offer the world.  But what if she secretly hates herself?

The possibility didn't make me feel any more bonded to her in some sisterhood of body-image blues.  It made me feel lonely.  And sad.

So I was sitting there stuttering, trying to decide how to answer, when A frowned.  "Oh wait, I just realized I said twenty pounds.  I meant ten."  She laughed.  "If I lost twenty pounds I would be a skeleton."

For some reason, that made me feel so much better.  A doesn't want to "Lose Weight" and reach some vague goal of being skinnier.  She wants to eat her turkey and cheese sandwich, veggies, fruit salad, and pretzels; go biking after work; and live more healthfully because she is young and if not now, then when?

(Does she need to lose ten pounds?  I honestly can't say just by looking at her, and I've only known her for a few weeks.  So, maybe she does and maybe she doesn't.  Not my call.)

Regardless, she seems to have a really healthy approach to it, which both impresses and baffles me. See, I wouldn't be able to say "I want to lose X pounds" and stop there.  Throughout my eating disorder, I've never had a specific goal weight in mind.  In fact, I was never really trying to lose weight - just terrified that I was going to Get Fat.  I would restrict, lose a little, freak out about gaining it back, restrict more, lose more, etc.  Fear, anxiety, nightmares of fatness.  Health was never part of the equation.

Will A be satisfied after losing ten pounds?  I hope so, if she actually does have ten pounds to lose.   I hope she feels awesome by becoming healthier - NOT by becoming some lesser version of who she was before.

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